An Australian Catholic Bishops Conference delegation has spent four days in Ukraine in an expression of pastoral solidarity with the country’s people, responding to an invitation from the head of the Ukrainian Church in Australia. Source: ACBC Media Blog.
Bishop Mykola Bychok CSsR, who leads the Ukrainian Eparchy of Sts Peter and Paul of Melbourne, last November asked his brother bishops to consider sending representatives to Ukraine.
Last week, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli of Melbourne, Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, Bishop Karol Kulczycki SDS of Port Pirie, Fr Simon Cjuk, vicar general of the Ukrainian Church in Australia, and Annie Carrett, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, visited several cities in the war-torn nation.
Since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Bishops Conference has strongly encouraged Catholic dioceses, eparchies, parishes, schools and other ministries to focus support towards the most vulnerable in Ukraine.
An advent appeal last year raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the country.
The pastoral visit was an extension of the bishops’ care and love for the people of Ukraine.
“Watching this tragedy from afar, and offering financial support is one thing – but it is important that we hear and share the voices of those directly affected,” Archbishop Comensoli said.
“This visit was about caring for our neighbour; and personally offering a strength in friendship and prayer to the Ukrainian people. It was key for us to bring dimensions of faith, friendship and solidarity to this trip.”
Archbishop Porteous said he was moved by the closeness of the bishops and priests to their people.
“Not only were they active in providing physical assistance but they were pastorally and spiritually present to the people,” he said.
“Again and again I noted their personal concern and witnessed the warmth of the people’s gratitude to their pastors.”
The delegation visited Lviv, Kyiv, Bucha and Irpin; the last two towns have been places of horrendous destruction and atrocities against human life. The group met with Church leaders, families, soldiers and civic leaders.
Bishop Kulczycki paid tribute to the work being undertaken at the Unbroken rehabilitation centre in Lviv.
“Centres such as the Unbroken are critical in rebuilding lives. They take wounded of every age through a whole cycle of care from surgery, prosthesis, rehabilitation and, most importantly, psychological and social care,” he said.
“So much has been lost and damaged. These young lives and young families need to re-learn how to live an everyday life full of meaning and purpose.
“Incredibly, this centre has been built and resourced by the generosity of people and organisations from across the globe. It is a living testament to people wanting to help, and giving where it is needed.”
The visit, though brief, has confirmed the fraternal commitment of the Church in Australia to supporting the people of Ukraine.
On their return, the bishops plan to build on the connections made and urge the faithful in Australia to continue to hold those suffering the close in prayer.
Australian bishops make pastoral visit to war-torn Ukraine (ACBC Media Blog)